Kusmi Tea, English Breakfast
I usually drink black tea, but today I added a little bit of milk in it. The outcome: a transparent creamy brown aroma that smells like the hue of the musky warm North Indian spring, displaced in the cold blooming, flower field of the English spring.
Some tea leaves struggled free from the threaded beige muslin packaging while the bag was jumping in and out, testing the temperature of the hot spring it was going to be submerged neck-deep into. The head needed to stay afloat, brimming the level of the mixed concoction of sweetened cool milk and blistering hot water. The leaves formed a pattern of swirling anti clockwise around the circumference of the cup, then coming in a single file, over to the tea bag to free a few more struggling beings. The woven white threads were not strong enough to hold the brown tea. The leaves within remain captured yet unchanged, whilst the white over time is browned to turn beige.
Indians start the three significant times of the day with black tea. Morning to wake us up, midday to ensure we keep hustling and night to digest the spiced starchy food we previously consumed. It is a habit, a routine. One that was forged, dismantled and whitened, as it crossed the Indian Ocean to temporarily excite the blunt taste buds of the imperialistic British population.
It is a simple and comforting tradition; hot water with herbs. The addition of milk and sugar is an appropriation of the West. Threatened by the naturalness of the brown, they see it reassuring to add a little bit of white to fixate it into their culture. A ‘culture’ built on assumptions and loans from the traditions of the East.
Tea was simply a tradition before the British turned it into dirty business. China was the monopoly that produced and sold tea, much like opium, around the world. This made them a threat to the superioristic white. If capital from a successful venture is going to lie solely in someone’s fat pouch, it had to be theirs. India was just used. Used as a base, a labor, and a cultural excuse. We were their new and recent, only ‘brown friends’. Much like the role I play today in many other white lives.
People who only let the bag remain in its warm hearth for a split second are cruel. Over hastily ripping the heart from its body, causing a bloody murder. You need to let the herbs and the water become one, they need to get to know each other and merge into a whole rather than its subtractable parts. Then only when you go to take the bag out, will the soul clench onto its heart with a grieving passion at the thought of separation and be known as tea. By adding milk you cannot conceal the lack of real substance in the drink.
When I look down into the mirrored surface I see the complexion of my people. I see the translucent tough brown skin wrapped snuggly around the chubby curved edges of my bones. While I sit here amongst the ray of white far removed from those whose breaths I feel floating into me every time I inhale deeply and restlessly. I want to be able to exhale my soul out with my warmed breath and let it transport itself from here back to the mountainous planes of North India. Where twelve-year-old girls have burgundy soaked sweat lining their foreheads while they scavenge the green for the orange that finds its way into rectangular recyclable cubes and into the stores where ungrateful cheaters like me can find it.
Today I cheated on my heritage and the people that stand shoulder to shoulder in order to build it. Their platform is what gives me the strength to travel across the oceans to integrate myself into this white culture so I can learn ‘sophistication’. But why do I feel like I’ve only learnt to get further away from the person I was. Someone who knew and appreciated the value of underpaid labor and gentility of tradition. Instead of integrating I feel as if I have submerged neck deep into waters where I do not belong yet long to belong. What knowledge I gain here is a bastard child of the one at home because that is where it was conceived and birthed.
I look down into the surface again and I see a small lump of clustered milk floating around. It has separated itself from the mixture, which it doesn’t belong to.